Sen. Greg Treat’s SB1140, designed to create legal protections for faith-based adoption agencies, won a huge victory on Thursday when it advanced out of the House Judiciary committee with an overwhelming 13-6 vote.
House author Rep. Travis Dunlap (R-Bartlesville) presented and defended the bill against aggressive attacks from opponents. After one of the bill’s lead detractors, Rep. Collin Walke (D-OKC), likened supporters of faith-based agencies to those who instituted Jim Crow laws, Rep. Dunlap was unflappable and diplomatic. Dunlap detailed lawsuits around the nation that have resulted in the closing of faith-based agencies, “The environment is such that there are fewer child-placement needs being taken care of because of these situations.”
Unfortunately, the bill was passed with an amendment that severely weakens its effect. The amendment, offered by Rep. Leslie Osborn (R-Mustang), stripped the bill of its language regarding state or federal funding. The practical result is that the rights afforded to faith-based agencies by the bill are moot if the agency receives state or federal funding for any purpose at all. Catholic Charities, for instance, would not be protected from lawsuits regarding adoption facilitated exclusively for a mother and father because state or federal funds have been used for other programs like disaster aid and support for the homeless.
What’s more, any such agency unprotected from lawsuits will likely close their doors versus accept the high cost of a pending court battle. This has occurred in numerous states in recent years, the most high profile case being the closure of adoption services at Catholic Charities of Boston after being threatened with a suit. The impact is seen primarily in the unavailability of adoption services to young, single mothers who specifically prefer to adopt their babies to a faithful Catholic family.
SB1140 will now advance to the House floor where members will have an opportunity to debate the merits of the amendment and the bill before a full floor vote.